Devotion for the Week...
I've always enjoyed the story of Ruth in the Bible. In the beginning of the story, her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law have all died and her mother-in-law, Naomi, decides to return to her homeland. Naomi encourages Ruth to return to her own family in hopes of finding another husband, but Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi. When they arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth and Naomi have nothing. They have no man to provide for them, and very little resources to provide for themselves. So what does Ruth do? Many of us would be tempted to feel sorry for ourselves at this point, or to sit around waiting for someone else to fix the problem. Not Ruth. Rather than worrying or regretting that she chose to come with Naomi, Ruth gets right to work.
God had commanded the Isrealites, "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner" (Leviticus 19:9, 10). Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning, so Ruth headed out immediately and started gleaning, picking up any bits of barley left behind by the harvesters. By doing so, she hoped to get enough grain to feed herself and her mother-in-law.
As a foreign woman, Ruth probably stood out among those who were working the field, and she was noticed by Boaz, the owner of the field, when he came to see how the harvest was going. "Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, 'Who does that young woman belong to?'"(Ruth 2:5). The overseer not only knew who Boaz meant, but he knew what Ruth had been doing all day. "She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” (vv. 6,7) The overseer had noticed that Ruth was working hard, spending hours in the field with only a short break and, since he mentioned it to Boaz, I take it he was impressed by her work ethic.
But Ruth wasn't trying to be noticed. She didn't leave Moab with Naomi to be noticed. She did what she thought was right. She wasn't gleaning in the field in an attempt to be noticed. She just did what needed to be done to get food for their table. She probably didn't think she was doing anything special, or doing anything that others wouldn't also be doing if they were in her place.
The fact of the matter is, we are all being noticed by someone. It is human nature to watch the people around us, to see how they go about their daily lives. A couple of years ago I started babysitting a little boy from a family I hadn't met before I started babysitting him. One day I went to the grocery store and the cashier told me the boy's grandmother had asked her if she knew me, because the grandmother didn't know me and wondered what sort of person I was. I had never before thought about my grocery shopping as being something that people would observe, but it is. Because we live in a small town, this cashier has been seeing me for years, popping into the store with my own boys or some of the other kids I've looked after, chatting with her, keeping the kids from demolishing the store displays and that sort of thing. She could assure this grandmother that the kids in my care are happy with me and that, in her words, "you have no worries with Leanne." That report brightened my day, but I wasn't doing anything while in the store to try to be noticed as a competent caregiver. I was just doing my usual thing.
All of which begs one simple question: for what are you noticed? Jesus told His followers, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither
do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on
its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).
Whenever I have heard or read this verse I have heard 'good deeds' and imagined it meaning those things we do specifically to be nice to others, but the word translated as 'deeds', ergon, actually means "anything done or to be done; a deed, work, action."
Maybe Jesus wasn't only referring to special kindnesses, but to all the good things we do in the run of our daily lives. All the things that get noticed by others and make them see us in a positive light will bring glory to God. All the things that get noticed in a negative way will not.
So, as we go about our daily lives, just doing what needs to be done, how do people see us? I'm not suggesting we should put on an act when we're out in public, trying to fool people into thinking we're something we're not. But rather, do our actions and our attitude line up with what we say we believe? Are we exhibiting the fruit of the spirit? "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22,23). Are we noticed for those things?
And if we aren't being noticed for these things, is that a problem?